Story, photos and video by JOHN ANDERSON
Southern Tier Congressman Joseph “Joe” Sempolinski will never be accused of being a career politician.
The 39-year-old Canisteo resident and Republican, won a special election to represent the 23rd Congressional District in Washington, D.C. when he defeated Max Della Pia, a Democratic nominee, 53% to 46.%.
He took over for Tom Reed who stepped down after the win in September, and his term will end at the end of this year.
However, he is still listening to the constituents, driving the district in his used Chevy and considering a run for a political seat in the future.
During this break from Washington, Sempolinki is holding town hall meetings. Thursday night, he held one in Wellsville at the David A. Howe Library that had the discussions of every town hall meeting held, no matter who the person is. Residents gave opinions on electric cars, guns and the border. Not too many local issues came up or questions on services. But Sempolinski listened, gave his opinion and listened to one person who did not agree with his stance on issues.
About 16 people attended the town hall meeting to hear from the 27th youngest congressman.
He let the audience know he understood the importance of low gas prices and reliable vehicles.
“Subway is not a way to get to work in the 23rd Congressional District, it’s a sandwich,” Sempolinski said. “For 99 percent of the residents, we need to drive to work.”
He called this the strangest political time he has ever seen, as the counties he represents will be split into three districts as part of redistricting.
During an interview with the Sun, he explained it doesn’t matter who wins or from which party, he is going to help in the transition.
“We have to do a transition, actually three transitions. Six of the counties will go into the new 23rd District, three counties will go into the new 24th District and two counties are going into the new 19th District,” he said. “So the area that I am representing will be in three different congressional districts with three different members that I will have to hand off the baton to which includes constituent services, that includes ongoing economic development projects, that includes legislative priorities, it includes getting whoever is elected up to speed on doing the job and serving the people the best I can. I stand ready to facilitate that transition to whomever the people select in those three districts.”
Sempolinski did not take his win lightly and is honored to have the position and title.
“In the time I have been in office, about seven weeks, I have cast 57 votes on the floor of the House, we’ve now conducted nine town hall meetings and two to go on Saturday and will complete the 11-county circuit,” he said. “We also meet with elected officials, businesses and schools around the district given the unusual circumstance, as I’ll be a congressman for a short time.
“It’s the honor of a lifetime. I was born in Elmira, I grew up outside of Corning, I live in Canisteo now, my wife is from Allegany County. This is a district that has given me everything and this is a district that has given me my entire life,” Sempolinski continued. “To be able to stand on the floor of the House of Representatives and speak for the people of the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes, really means everything. Whether it’s four minutes or four months or four years,, to be given that solemn and sacred responsibility to be the voice of the greatest people in the world. It means everything to me.”
In January, he will be back in Canisteo.
“I will be coming home. Whatever experience I can glean, I will use that to benefit my community,” Sempolinski said. “It will be a wonderful side affect of this opportunity the people of the 23rd Congressional District have given me.”